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The hillside location means there are limitations – no car park or playing fields on site. However, lose yourself in the mind of a child just for a moment and then weigh that up against spacious grounds fashioned by nature, with craggy woods, shady dells, dens and a stream – something other schools attempt to recreate by paying a fortune to landscape gardeners...

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What the school says...

At Moorfield we achieve the rare balance between academic rigour and creating a fun, friendly and caring environment where boys and girls can thrive. Pupils are nurtured as individuals and develop the personal confidence to be successful. All pupils proceed to their first choice of senior school.
Set at the foot of Ilkley moor, we make good use of our beautiful location whilst also having the benefit of being an easy walk from the centre of town.
Outstanding teaching from a vibrant and committed staff goes hand in hand with a broad and rich curriculum including exceptional music, plenty of sport, cookery and outdoor learning.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmistress

Since 2008, Mrs Jessica Crossley BEd. Originally from South Africa, she studied at Stellenbosch University, specialising in primary teaching and music. Previously a teacher at Moorfield, so knows the school well.

A breath of fresh air, she is warm, hugely enthusiastic and ambitious for her school and pupils. Seems to have won over hearts and minds with her ‘I can achieve anything’ approach to life and learning. Nurture and academic rigour both sit very comfortably with her. ‘It takes a long time to grow a child,’ she says. Delightfully unstuffy whilst exuding both intelligence and charm, she walks her talk more convincingly than many and is a real strength of the school.

Married with three grown-up children, she spends her weekends catching up with family and walking her elderly labrador on Ilkley Moor. Lists ‘good coffee and singing’ as some of life’s other pleasures.

Entrance

Twenty children per year group. Most join from nursery and there’s a steady dribble into classes most years if space allows. Girl-heavy throughout; no boys as yet in the older classes, but numbers of boys are increasing each year as the youngest work their way through the school.

Children of all abilities accepted, on the premise that the needs of current pupils are not compromised in any way; ability/needs are assessed informally on a taster day. Some year groups are full (numbers are on the up) but space in other years so do check. Annual open day, but school is open to visitors most days by appointment.

Exit

Most popular destinations in 2016 were Harrogate Ladies (one all-rounder scholarship in 2016) and Ilkley Grammar. Other common destinations include Skipton Girls' High and Bradford Grammar. These are all sought-after schools and competition is rife so parents are well advised along the way and children extremely well prepared, helping to ease the transition into their first choice schools.

Our view

Small, but, in many ways perfectly formed. Housed in Wharfedale Lodge, an imposing Yorkshire stone villa with newer additions, including a purpose-built nursery and hall/gym. Classrooms are bright, sunny and spacious, with plenty of impressive work on display. The whole place feels loved and cared for, no tatty areas to be seen. Attention to detail is important here – they care, and it shows.

Little passing traffic as the school sits in a prime residential street, nestled in the lea of Ilkley Moor. You have to go out of your way to find it (other schools are more visible and Moorfield wrestles with that). The hillside location means there are limitations – no car park or playing fields on site. However, lose yourself in the mind of a child just for a moment and then weigh that up against spacious grounds fashioned by nature with craggy woods, shady dells, dens and a stream – something other schools attempt to recreate by paying a fortune to landscape gardeners.

The school uses every inch of the available space – safe playground with hard and soft areas, a hard court and new Astro for ball games; forest school happens for real here and the grounds are child heaven, with so much to explore.

Small classes, learning support as required. French from nursery, German from year 3 and a smattering of Russian in year 6; subject specialist teaching at the top of the school. You won’t find the school in newspapers’ top school lists simply because, like 75 per cent of UK prep schools, they don’t do Sats. No lack of rigour though – they take preparation for senior school seriously and will happily talk to you about their assessment criteria.

According to the children, ‘the teachers here find really fun ways to drill subjects into your head.’ We might struggle a little with the word ‘drill’ but they are all smiles as they say it and we know what they mean. Parents say the head is good at finding ‘young, inspiring teachers’ who ‘put soul into the place.’ Teachers clearly have energy too – they end the day with a seven-minute workout with the head (‘don’t tell the children, they may want to watch’). Plenty of IT throughout, staff know their way around interactive whiteboards and use them well; Old school skills such as cooking, masterfully led by the former head of Bettys Cookery School.

Well-stocked library; they are big on reading here, with special rosettes awarded for reading the classics (with or without the help of parents) – and it doesn’t count if you just watched the DVD. Specialist music rooms in the refurbished basement. All sing and the majority play an instrument, many more than one.

School makes use of good local facilities for team sports and swimming, as well as running on the moor and around the local tarn. Add to that a spelling bee and a wealth of musical opportunities and there are no excuses for not sleeping well at night. Achieving a rare third green flag as an eco school was much celebrated; there is a vitality here that is both healthy and engaging.

There’s a holiday club during the hols – hugely popular with working parents and ladies-who-lunch. ‘It’s a lifesaver,’ say parents, and no complaints from the children, who seem to have a wonderfully busy time. Plenty of ‘specials’ – climate week, poetry, art, music and drama competitions, fundraising for local charities and more besides. Year 6 pupils end their time at the school with a winter banquet – dress code is ‘more dash than cash’ so that it doesn’t become a fashion show. Otherwise it’s a candlelit dinner, with formal invitations (delightfully penned thank you letters follow), the best china and silverware, all at the head’s home. It’s one of the most eagerly awaited events of the year, and not just for the grand finale that is the chocolate fountain.

Pupils look cheery in practical red and green uniforms, blazers and jumpers for most, sweatshirts for little ones. The time-honoured school hats and caps remain at parents’ insistence (admittedly cute around town), but it’s more to do with sentimental value than denying the myth that is Ilkley Moor bar t’at (translation available if required). These are busy children. Plenty of sport on and off site, with competitive matches against local schools. ‘I expect you to win,’ says the head. She’s only half-joking, but apparently ‘it’s still good for your personal development if you lose,’ say the pupils. Crikey.

Food is ‘great,’ say the pupils, notably Mrs Glover’s legendary chocolate square, which (they are quick to add) is balanced by a healthy fruit feast on other days. Food is locally sourced and cooked in-house; parents receive menu options on weekly newsletters.

Parents treasure the ‘family environment’ and appreciate the accommodating flexibility. Not essential to pre-book before and after-school care. Just a phone call needed – invaluable when you are stuck in traffic. Usual to see older girls looking after the little ones at playtime – it’s a small school and they know (and will play with) everyone, regardless of age. New pupils are made welcome throughout and parents meet and greet others with coffee and croissant mornings.

The amusingly titled ‘boy time’ happens on Friday afternoon when the boys (small as they are) head off for rugby or cricket. Plans to add golf too as they grow a little taller. It’s early days for co-ed and boys are very much in the minority but they are well catered for and are a happy and much-valued part of the school. Pupils are unfailingly polite and discipline is obvious, without childlike enthusiasm being suppressed. No mobile phones and parents happy with that – ‘we want them to be children.’

Ilkley is a small market town with, probably, too many schools as well as an abundance of teashops and antique dealers, yet all are thriving and appear recession-proof. Serious money here and they are a well-heeled bunch, though admittedly the heels are more Hunter (possibly Aigle) than Louboutin. But somehow the locals are all the more likeable for that. The upshot is plenty of choice for your children and a great lifestyle for parents who may well choose to work in Leeds but live here. ‘You pays your money (or not) and you takes your choice,’ as they say around here, but make sure you don’t miss Moorfield when you are doing the rounds.

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